Former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) members and Ministers are being called in for renewed questioning by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) regarding the sale and transfer of lands located in Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (Pradoville 2) under the former Administration’s tenure.
On Wednesday morning, former Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn and former Minister of Tourism, Manzoor Nadir were the latest to be questioned at SOCU’s Headquarters.
They were represented by attorney-at-law and former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, who disclosed that she too was called in for questioning regarding the matter on Tuesday.
Speaking to media operatives after being interrogated, Benn revealed that he explained to the SOCU investigators that the period surrounding the sale of the lands, a Minister had been murdered and so the Government did what “needed to be done” at the time.
Manickchand deemed the prolonged investigation as a “distraction” expressing her belief that it is being politically directed.
“They are asking questions that were answered several times before…Every single Minister, whether you received, or were a beneficiary or a resident of the housing area or not, every single minister is being called in. I don’t know. Do they intend to charge the entire cabinet and make this a bigger circus than it is right now?”, she was recorded in the media saying.
Last year March, former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, were detained while several other former Government Ministers under the PPP Administration were called in for questioning by SOCU in connection with an ongoing probe into the acquisition of lands at Pradoville 2, among other things.
Days after that, the President of Guyana, David Granger, declared that the former Guyanese Leader should not have been treated the way he was.
“We are speaking about an ex-President. We’re speaking about somebody who (had) enjoyed the confidence of the (Guyanese) people for 12 years, and I believe that his involvement in the matter under investigation did not warrant his going to the office. A decision could have been taken at the level of the Guyana Police Force…So, in my view, some other way could have been used to determine whether his presence at the headquarters was necessary,” Granger had stated.
In the past, SOCU has detained several former prominent Government officials, including former Prime Minister and President, Samuel Hinds, former Ministers Priya Manickchand, Irfaan Ali, Clement Rohee, Robert Persaud and Dr Jennifer Westford regarding their connection with the Pradoville 2 scheme.
The reason these persons are being questioned is because they purchased property at the Sparendaam seawall area (ECD) that is commonly known as “Pradoville 2”.
The current Administration contends that the transaction is a criminal act because of the belief that the land was sold below market value.
However, the PPP had argued that subsidised housing has always been a part of the legacy of the People’s Progressive Party, and that countless Guyanese have benefited from lands sold below market value.
In fact, former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall had said “Every single house lot in this country was distributed way below the market price: $50,000 for a land in Mon Repos, $200,000 in Eccles… Is that the value of the house lot? So let us not get carried away and become victims of the propaganda.”